Athens is set to get its first specialized convention center

The indoor arena at Palaio Faliron, which hosted the taekwondo competition during the 2004 Athens Olympics, will become, thanks to private capital, Athens’s main convention center with an estimated annual turnover of 85 million euros, it was announced yesterday. The convention center will be a public-private partnership, built with private funds and leased to the builder for a period of 25 years, Olympic Properties SA, the state agency in charge of most Olympic venues (except the main Olympic complex and the Peace and Friendship indoor arena), said. Olympic Properties has come up with a proposal for the uses of the arena and the form of the consortium that should undertake reconstruction and operation. The proposal will be submitted to a government committee and, upon approval, an international tender will take place. It is known that Helexpo, the organizer of the annual Thessaloniki International Fair, has expressed an interest in running the convention center. The plan for the center calls for a main amphitheater and two smaller ones, and an array of supporting functions, such as a reception, open-air and closed exhibition spaces, auditoriums, business centers and parking space. It is expected that the convention center will be able to host 100 events in its first year of operation, rising to over 200 after the fifth year. The total number of visitors is expected to reach 70,000 in the first year, rising to 160,000 after the fifth year. Athens does not have a proper convention center. Whatever needs arise are covered by spaces – notably the Athens Concert Hall, the Helexpo Center in Maroussi (used as the press center at the Olympic Games) and large hotels – that are not specifically built for the purpose. The authorities hope that the new convention center will finally put Athens on the map as a major convention host. According to data presented by Olympic Properties, 60 percent of all conventions take place in Europe and 18 percent in Asia. About three quarters of international conventions take place between April and October. Besides the creation of more jobs, conventions will also attract above-average spenders, said Olympic Properties, estimating their spending at 300 euros per person per day.

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